Thursday, 30 October 2014

Manimahesh – A Pilgrimage to Holy Lake

Mani Mahesh Lake
The Mani Mahesh Lake is situated about 26 Km from Bharmour in the Budhil valley and is one of the main pilgrimage centers in Himachal Prasesh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 13000 feet meters above the main sea level at the foot of Kailash peak at 18564 feet in Chamba district. Every year on the 8th day of the light half of the moon in the month of Badhon or August, a fair is held at the lake where the people come for a holy dip from far off places.

Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of the fair because He is believed to live in Kailash. A rock formation in the shape of Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol on Kailash is considered to be the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The snowfield at the base is called the Chowgan or the playground of Shiva where he sports with his wife Parvati.

Mount Kailash is considered to be invincible as no one has so far been able to scale the peak despite the fact that much taller peaks have been conquered several times. There is a story that once a gaddi or a shepherd tried to climb the mountain with his herd of sheep. The series of minor peaks below the principal peak are believed to be the remains of the ill- fated shepherd and his flock.
There is yer another legend according to which a snake also attempted to climb this peak and was turned into a stone. The people believe that one can have the view of Kailash, if the god is pleased. In case of bad weather, when the peak is hidden behind the clouds is a sign of the displeasure of god.

At one corner of Manimahesh lake is a marble image of Shiva, which is worshiped by the pilgrims who visit the place. After bathing in the holy water the people go round the circumference of the lake three times. The lake and its surrounding present a majestic view. The quite waters of the lake carry the reflection of snow capped peaks that tower over the valley.

Manimahesh is approached from different routes. The people fron Lahaul & Spiti district come from the Kugti pass. Some from Kangra and Mandi districts come via Kawarsi or Jalsu Pass. The most common route is from Chamba, which runs through Bharmour. At present the buses ply up to Bharmour and the jeeps carry the passengers to Hadsar, beyond which the pilgrims have to trek for 13 Km to reach Manimahesh.

Between Hadsar and Manimahesh is another important halting place known as Dhancho, where the pilgrims usually spend the night. There is a beautiful waterfall here, which has an interesting legend behind it. It is said that on being pleased by the devotion of Bhasmasur, the Lord Shiva gave him a boon that whomsoever he touches, would be reduced to ashes. Bhasmasur, taking advantage of the boon decided to do away with the Lord himself. He chased and followed Lord Shiva. The latter entered this waterfall and took shelter behind the caves in the cascading waters. Bhasmasut could not cross the waterfall and started waiting for the Lord to come out. Then Lord Vishnu came to the rescue of Lord Shiva in the form of a beautiful woman. Bhasmasur became interested in the women, but the latter engaged him in a dancing competition. Lord Vishnu as a woman placed the hands on head during the course of dancing. Following these dancing steps, Bhasmasur also imitated her and was immediately reduced to ashes. Since then the waterfalls are considered to be holy and the pilgrims bathe in it before moving on to Manimahesh.

It is widely believed that one can visit Manimahesh only if the Lord so wishes. One may plan a trip but unless He so desires, the plan may not materialize.

Fron Dhancho the people take different routes to Manimahesh. One is through Bunderghati or the Monkey peak and the other is through Bhairavghati, while the third one is through the newly built bridle path. The first two routes are tough and dangerous and only the locals can dare to attempt them. During the fair the route generally remains packed with devotees. The pilgrims sing devotional songs to make the journey less arduous and to enthuse those whose strength seems to be falling.
The next destination is Gauri Kund or the pond of Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is just a kilometer short of Manimahesh. It is a small pond where Gauri Parbati takes bath. There is also a small pond where Lord Shiva is believed to take bath. Those who die during the journey are cremated at the Hadsar village. 

The Victoria Bridge of Mandi

The Panoramic View of Victoria Bridge at Night

The Victorian Suspension Bridge over the river Beas was built in 1877 A.D. It connects the Jawahar Nagar or Khaliar and Old or Purani Mandi areas to the main town. It was built at the cost of one lakh rupees or about $ 1700, during the regime of Raja Bijai Sen in 1877. He built the bridge with the help of the British Government which had granted protection to the state under a treaty after the Sikhs had invaded Mandi in 1840. The ropes of the bridge had been embedded with concrete under the rocks.

Before the construction of this bridge in 1877, the people used to cross the Beas river by boats. During the days of Raja Sidh Sen (1684 to 1727 AD), a number of boats used to remain anchored on the bank of the river as the water discharge was more as compared to present times.

The wife of Raja of Bhangal, was the daughter of Raja Sidh Sen. She had come back to Mandi due to the strained relations with her husband.  Raja Sidh Sen invited his son-in-law to Mandi and made him a captive. After some time the Raja of Bhangal attempted to escape from the prison in a boat, but the ferrymen recognized him. He was re- imprisoned and was thereafter murdered. The rulers of Mandi state could not build a bridge over the Beas for centuries.

The Victoria Bridge handled all traffic from the Pathankot to Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti and Leh till the construction of new bridge on the Beas in 1984. In 1987 the rocks holding the ropes of the bridge were reinforced by boring long holes into the rock which were plugged with steel rods and the cement was injected with high-pressure sophisticated machines provided by the Beas Satluj Link Project.

The bridge was strengthened by the BSL authorities and reinforced at regular intervals to bear more load. The BSL authorities also utilized the bridge for carrying small machines. For a long time only empty buses and vehicles were allowed to cross the bridge and the passengers were requested to get down. A man wearing a placard on his back used to walk before the bus to ensure its low speed. The construction of a new road above the foundations has affected the life of this bridge. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bhuri Singh Museum of Chamba

Bhuri Singh Museum

The Bhuri Singh Museum is one of the oldest museums of India. It is a storehouse of many antique art objects belonging to different periods of history. It gives a panorama of art, culture and theological myths, giving impression of age old traditions of the erstwhile state of Chamba in Himachal pradesh. 

The museum was established in 1908 by Raja Bhuri Singh, on the request of Dr. J.P. Vigel, a swiss national, and the then superintendent of the North Circle of Archaeological Survey of India. Because during his holidaying, Dr. Vogel had visited many places in Chamba, and discovered several stone inscriptions in the entire area. 

A new building has now been built at the place of old one. The old building before becoming a museum, was a discotheque, consisting of four spacious halls and a verandah running outside the entire complex. With an increase in number of collections the new building was built.

The museum was inaugurated by Mr. R.E. Young husband, the then Commissioner of Lahore. It was on his suggestion that the museum was named after Raja Bhuri Singh.
There were about 1000 collections of artifacts at the time of inauguration, but now the number has swelled to more than 500. The collections cover all aspects of art and culture including copper plates, plaster replica, manuscripts, traditional costumes, lithographs, weapons, coins and paintings etc.

The paintings in museum depict all themes of Hindu mythology, characterized by minuteness and brilliance of colors. The Pahari paintings are the primary attractions, which were donated by Raja Bhuri Singh from his own art collections of Akhand Chandi palace.
In order to add more articles the efforts of the connoisseurs are in progress. The two Naga sculptures of 10th and 11th century are the new additions. Besides a 16th century wooden panel, with a doorkeeper or dwarpala carved on it has also been acquired.

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Shimla- The Erstwhile Capital of India

The Panoramic view of Shimla

Shimla is the Capital of an Indian state called Himachal Pradesh. The town has the privilege to remain the Summer capital of British India. 

It has several places of historical importance. It is a favorite destination of domestic and foreign tourists. The Naldera golf course of Shimla is very famous and the tourists throng the skiing slopes of Kufri in winter. 
The state has launched a plan to develop a National park at Kufri. Quite often the film producers are attracted to shoot the films in the backdrop of the scenic beauty of Shimla. 

For further reading--- Travel to Shimla

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Abhineet Khorana

Trekking in Himachal Pradesh


Trekking invariably means trekking in the mountains and Himachal Pradesh is a trekker’s paradise. It has its own delight and dangers- its own joys and hazards. The unhurried absorption of the passing scenery is no less joyful than the greatest satisfaction of scaling some of the highest snow covered peaks.

Trek only once in Himachal and you will never wish to spend your holiday in any other way. The meadows covered with flowers of every variety and the changing hues of its glaciers would create in the trekker and overwhelming desire to return again and again. The wide open spaces with range after range of mountains, the pine and cedar forests, rivers passing through the fields and valleys and above all the camping under the starlit sky are the things that make the soul come alive. The moments spent in communion with nature redide in the memory for a very long period.

Besides the private operators of trekking tours, the H.P Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., also organizes several treks regularly under the National Himalayan Trekking Scheme in collaboration with the Youth Hostel Association of India. They provide all trekking amentities. The main trek routes are as follows. 

1. Kalpa- Sarahan- Sangla

1. The Sarahan- Sangla Valley Trek

The Sarahan in Sangla valley is about 175 Km from Shimla in Himachal pradesh. It falls in the ruggedly beautiful, mountainous and romantic land of kinnaur, the home of legendary Kinner tribe. 

The Sangla valley is one of the most beautiful and enchanting in Himachal Pradesh, with green fields and meadows full of flowers and fruit trees.

The soccer ground, reputed to be the highest such ground in the world, serves as a base camp at Sarahan. Sarahan commands an enchanting view of green valleys, rolling fields and several high peaks including the famous Srikhand Mahadev. 

A mixture of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, the ancient temples of Bhimakali are the great attractions for the tourists and the pilgrims. 

The trek fairly leveled in the beginning descends to Chora, on old Hindustan-Tibet Road. The road was constructed in 1850, and it revels the fantastic view of the river below. 

2, The Sar Pass Trek

2. The Raison- Kasol- Sar Pass Trek

India is a land blessed with natural beauty and its hill state Himachal Pradesh is no exception. The mountain ranges of Himachal attain an altitude from 500 meters to 6500 meters above sea level. This has provided an ample fertile ground for a wide range of flora and fauna.

Trekking in Himachal is not only a fun but it is a memorable experience too. Recently in kullu district the Raison- Kasolsar trek has been included in trekking programs. 

From Raison the trekkers take a journey to Grahan. Then they travel ahead to Mang Thach, a village about 9 Km from Garahan. Next day the trekkers trek up to Nagru (7 Km ), then they have to cross two high passes The Baskari pass (13,000 feet) and Sar pass (13,800 feet). Both these passes are higher than the legendary Rohtang pass, the hardest pass of this journey. 

3. Paris Peacock Papilio paris at Kasol(6500 ft.) in Kullu districy of Himachal Pradesh, during Sar Pass Trek.

3. Raison- Kasol- Chanderkhani Pass

Raison on the Kullu- Manali Highway is the common base camp for the Chander Khani Pass as well as for the Sar Pass trekking programmes. This place situated on the banks of Bead River is and ideal place for such adventure activities.
It is about 140 Km long track which is covered in 14 days. The trekkers stay at the camping site for two days to get acclamatised and to learn the elementary rock climbing techniques.
After the first halt at Jana (9 Km) and Mati Kocher (14 Km), the trekkers cross the 10,032 feet high Bringta Pass and reach Jari in the Parbati valley on the sixth day. Jari nestles on the hillside shelf juat above the Parbati River and opposite the Malana valley.

4. Old House at malana
The view from this spot of the upper Parbati valley and other valleys and streams which diverge from it is more impressive than that presented by the Beas valley. Jari to Kasol is and easy walk of 8 Km, which provides an exquisite scenery. Towards Pulga and Tosh nullah is a mountain range of rugged grandeur and a dense huddle of rocky peaks of varied shapes and sizes. The trekkers also visit Manikaran which is famed for its hot water springs and ancient temples. It is also a favorite resort for the pilgrims coming from different and distant parts of India.

5. No pilgrimage or the Sar Pass Trek would be complete without mentioning this holy river Parvati. It was lovely feeling to spend a few days alongside this love abode of Parvati as its transparent, abundant & turbulent waters mesmerize any body as she passes through deep valleys. The camp at Kasol is just located besides it. As it meets a smaller & calm Beas at Bhunter, about 30 40 km. downstream below Kasol, it becomes Beas. 

On the 9th and 10th days, the trekkers visit Rashol village across the 10,692 feet high Roshul Jot or pass and reach Malana after walking through the steep rocky path. Situated in a Mountain fortress a small conservative community of about 700 people stepped in superstitions and still practicising the ancient ceremonial rites and practices of abroriginal ancestory. It is said that Malana is the oldest existing democratic society in the world, where the villagers take part in managing the affairs.
6.Base camp at Kasol
After a day’s halt the trekkers travel up to Kiksha Thach (16 Km) at the base of Ali Ratni peak by passing through some of the wild and uninhabited valleys of Kullu. On the last two days the participants cover almost 40 Km and reach the base camp at Raison after staying at Nagrun and Ramshu and crossing the 12,000 feet high Chander Khani Pass. A particularly striking view of Deo Tibba nearly 20,000 feet overlooking the Malana Glen as well as the other snow capped peaks on the Spiti border can be enjoyed from the top of the ridge. 

2. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by J.M.Garg
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3. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by J.M.Garg
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4. Photo Credit- Wikimedis Commons by Asheesh123sharma
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5.Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by J.M.Garg
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6. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Surajhaveri
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The Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan

Bhima Kali Temple at Sarahan
The Ancient Bhimakali temple is situated at about 120 kilometer from Shimla at the banks of river Sutlej. It is one of the 51 seats of goddesses in India, where the left ear of Sati Parvati is believed to have fallen. The temple belongs to the family goddess of the erstwhile ruling clan of Rampur. 

The templwe also finds mention in Puranas, the ancient holy scriptures of Hindus. The image of goddess is very beautiful among the images of Hindu gods.The temple was built during the reign of Yadavas. Thousands of people throng the place every year during the annual worship.

The courtyard in the ancient temple of Bhimakali is paved with flat stones, now washed by the rains. A door of intricate silver design and a series of steps lead to the second courtyard. Another flight of steps bring one to the innermost rectangular compound. In the courtyard stand two peculiarly structured shrines of Bhimakali. Each shrine is a square tower of wood and stone with engraved wooden balconies running around the four sides of the upper storey. The roofs rise in pagoda style and the larger lower roofs are surrounded by smaller and more ornate roofs which taper into spires of shining gold.

The shrine on the right is more ancient and after the earthquake of 1909, it had begun to tilt dangerously. The tilt is still plainly visible. This led to the construction of newer and more beautiful shrine. The idol of goddess Kali is a fine silver figure with a glint in the eyes.


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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kufri- A Hill Resort at Shimla

 The view of Himalayas from Kufri
A Few days ago, I revisited Kufri, a hill resort about 16 Km from Shimla. It is situated at a height of about 8600 ft above sea level. The place remains covered in snow in winter and in summer it provides relief from the hot climate of plains. It gives a panoramic view of Great Himalayan Ranges, which always remain covered with snow.

In local language, the name Kufri means pond. The place was developed by the Europeans, during the British rule in India. At that time Shimla was the capital of British India and ir remained as such till 1947.

Kufri was a place where the Tibetans took shelter after they fled from Tibet after the annexation of Tibet by China. There is a Tibetan market at Kufri, where locally manufactured woolen goods and household goods are sold. The old houses at Kufri has given way to new buildings. 

The winter sports club at Kufri was formed in 1952, and the skiing competitions were organised here. Kufri became famous in sixties when the winter sports were organised there, in 1968. But due to the decline in snowfall, the venue of sports has been shifted to Narkanda, another beautiful place about 80 Km from Shimla.

Kufri has a wildlife sanctuary and a mini zoo. For those who love solitude, the place at a distance of about 2 Km from Kufri rewards the trekkers with a picturesque landscapes.
The temples dedicated to Nag and Kali have also been built here by local devotees.

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Shahnoor Habib Munmun

The Maids of Honor by Velázquez

The Maids of Honor
Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez (1599- 1660), was a Spanish painter. He led a brilliant life and enjoyed the favor and patronage of the Court. The duties of Count occupied great importance in his life. 

His paintings, the “Maids Of Honor” and “Tapestry Weaving” are most significant contributions. 

In “Maids of Honor”, the whole background is occupied by three elegant and charming figures. The little infants still in their rich robes and the two maids of honor ready to serve. In the shadow are two dwarfs and a large dog. The painter is himself there and painting a portrait. In this painting his art has the effect of magical invocation of truth and life.

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons byDiego Velázquez (1599–1660) 

Historic Lighthouses of the Eastern America

Eastern Point Lighthouse, Gloucester, MA
The long and fascinating history of the lighthouses on the Eastern shores of the United States symbolize the romantic nostalgia of old days. With unique history, legends and folklore, there are three such lighthouses which compete with each other to become the oldest ones.

The first official, but the second oldest lighthouse in North America, is the Boston Light. It is situated on Little Brewster island in Boston Harbor in Massachusetts. This working lighthouse was built in 1716, but after getting damaged during the Revolutionary War of 1776, it was rebuilt in 1783. In America, it is the only lighthouse where a resident keeper has been employed.

The octagonal Sandy Hook lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in New Jersey. It was designed and built in 1764. It still stands as it was originally constructed, so it is termed as the oldest lighthouse. 

Built in 1586, the St. Augustine lighthouse was originally a light station. It was enclosed in stone structure in 1683, and was officially converted into the lighthouse in 1820's. 

Further Reading-  The Historic Lighthouses of Eastern America

Photo Credit- Esc861
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Kurg- The scotland of India

Kurg or Coorg, presently known as Kodagu, is Known as a Scotland of India, due to the prevalent peace and natural beauty. The place has several sight seeing picnic spots. With an area of about 4000 square Km,it is an administrative district situated 120 Km from Mysore in the state of Karnataka in India. 

Mangalore is the nearest airport and Mysore is the nearest railway station. The regular bus services are also available to Kurg.

The place is also known for its silk costumes especially saris, pulses and oranges. 

The scene of sunset from Raja Seat park is breathtaking. The greenery and the hills wrapped in mist add special charm to the place. The laser show is also held in the park for the visitors.

Photo Credit- Aneezone
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Kinner Kailash and the Monastery of Rangriktungma - A Pilgrimage

Mount Kinnaur Kailash
Believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, the Kinner Kailesh is located in Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh in India. It has an altitude of 18,168 feet (6056 m) above sea level. The peak has so far not been scaled, despite several attempts of both Indian and foreign mountaineers. Much below the summit, at the height of 15994 feet, there is a Shivlinga, where some adventurers have reached.

Both the Kinner kailash and the Shivlinga can be viewed from Kalpa, the district headquarters. The Shivlinga catches different rays of Sun and presents a colorful spectacle.

Instead of visiting the Shuvlinga the devotees take Parikrama or go round the Kinner Kailesh, to pay their homage. The best season for the pilgrimage is August- September. The next auspicious time to visit the place is the Janamashtami or the day of incarnation of Lord Krishna.

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by snotch

Buddhism in Sri Lanka

A monk at the background of Big Buddha statue in Weherahena Temple, Matara, Southern Province, Sri Lanka
The Buddhism had gone to Srilanka from India in 3rd century BC. The Buddhist monk “Mahanama” in 4th century AD, wrote a work of piety known as “Mahavamsa”, a national chronicle of Sri Lanka. 

The “Mahavamsa” and its sequel “Kulavamsa”, trace the history of the island from 3rd century BC to 18th century AD. Both chronicles of Buddhism are about the religious development. They contain the strands of secular history. They have served as a basis for the reconstruction of the history of the nation down the centuries. 

“Mahsvamsa” records the devastation caused by foreign invaders in his beloved “Anandpura”, (the old capital of Sri Lanka), and to its Chaityas and Viharas or monasteries. .

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Tasmania – An Upcoming Tourist Destination in Australia

 Cradle Mountain as seen from the north, across Dove Lake. This view can be had after a few hundred meters walk from the car-park.

There are several tourist cities in Australia like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth etc. But the state of Tasmania is fast coming up as a popular tourist destination in Australia. The favorite tourist destinations are Burnie, Devenport, Homart, City of Clearance, City of Glen Orchy etc.

About more than a million people visited Tasmania in 2013. According to air and water travel services about 1,007,000 tourists visited Tasmania in September 2013, out of which just 10% were the foreign nationals. Rest of the people was from the other states of Australia. The number of tourists visiting Tasmania increases in winter. 

The activities like festival of voice and FL football in Launceston city are the main tourist attractions. 

According to the department of tourism of Tasmania State, it was the social media which has boosted the tourism of the state and has given it more recognition. Besides, the visitors too have praised the natural beauty of Tasmania. 

About 1.3 million tourists visit the northern part of Australia every year and Tasmania too is coming close to this figure. 

It is estimated that about 2 million people will come to Tasmania by the end of 2020.

Photo Credit- Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
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